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Egyptian women protesters held by army forced to take ‘virginity tests’

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Suzie Grogan
WVoN co-editor

Amnesty International has called on the Egyptian authorities to investigate serious allegations of torture, including forced ‘virginity tests’, inflicted by the army on women protesters arrested in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on 9 March.

Women protesters, among them 20-year-old Salwa Hosseini, have said that they were beaten, given electric shocks, subjected to strip searches while being photographed by male soldiers, then forced to submit to ‘virginity checks’ and threatened with prostitution charges.

At least 18 women were detained by the military after army officers cleared the square of protesters earlier this month.

An Amnesty International spokesperson said: “Forcing women to have ‘virginity tests’ is utterly unacceptable.

Its purpose is to degrade women because they are women. All members of the medical profession must refuse to take part in such so-called ‘tests’.

Women and girls must be able to express their views on the future of Egypt and protest against the government without being detained, tortured, or subjected to profoundly degrading and discriminatory treatment.

The army officers tried to further humiliate the women by allowing men to watch and photograph what was happening, with the implicit threat that the women could be at further risk of harm if the photographs were made public.

All security and army forces must be clearly instructed that torture and other ill-treatment, including forced ‘virginity tests’, will no longer be tolerated, and will be fully investigated.

Those found responsible for such acts must be brought to justice and the courageous women who denounced such abuses be protected from reprisals.”

Journalist Rasha Azeb was also detained in Tahrir Square. 

She told Amnesty International that she was handcuffed, beaten and insulted.

She witnessed other detained women being tortured by being given electric shocks throughout their detention, initially at Cairo Museum.

Ms Azeb was released after several hours along with four men who were also journalists, but 17 other women were transferred to the military prison in Heikstep.

Those 17 women were taken before a military court on 11 March and released on 13 March. Some received one-year suspended prison sentences.

Salwa Hosseini was convicted of disorderly conduct, destroying private and public property, obstructing traffic and carrying weapons.

Amnesty International objects to civilians being tried before military courts in Egypt, saying military courts have a track record of unfair trials and the right to appeal is severely restricted.

The media contact for Amnesty International is Steve Ballinger on 020 7033 1548.

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